A Sense of Flow: An Interview with Yin Yue

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Often when I dance, I feel like I’m rediscovering a memory: something I once knew and derived great pleasure from, but have since forgotten. Reconnecting with these lost pieces always transports me to a state where time moves differently; it’s there that I’m able to live inside of the memory, enjoy it, ride it out. Movement is like that: transportive. And in my case, it was Yin Yue’s class that brought back a flood of joy to all my layers of self. I’m so happy to have been met her — she made me remember, and wake up.

I took Yue’s class at Peridance in New York City, the same place I later saw her group, YY Dance Company, perform. Yue’s classes are based on the FoCo Technique. As described on Yue’s website, FoCo Technique “consists of five elements and three stages. Five elements: root, wood, water, metal, and fire. Each element contributes to the quality of moving and its designated body parts. Three stages: pulse, drop, and flow. Each stage contributes to the choreographic style and its physical and emotional outcome. The technique trains dancers to create a grounded, circular, fluid and dynamic performance that is rhythmic and powerful, yet sensual and graceful.” Watch the videos of her and her dancers moving: you’ll see it in action, and it is stunning.

One of the four emerging artists chosen to be in residence at 92 Y Street/ Harkness Dance Center in 2016, Yue is an internationally recognized dancer and choreographer from Shanghai. You can read more about her background here. She was kind enough to let me interview her about where she’s been, what she’s currently working on, and where she’s heading. A kind, incredibly passionate and talented woman, we’re all lucky to the world has her in it.

When did you begin to dance?

I began to dance at age four. My parents took me to dance classes two or three times a week.

How and when was FoCo technique created? Can you discuss what it is, as well is if and how it’s evolved?

It started in 2014. I was fascinated by the movement quality of Hofesh Shechter, especially how he approaches certain movement such as folk dance and rhythmic elements. He inspired me to develop my own movement language that combines traditional and contemporary, classic and folk, grounded and airy, eastern and western.

It began with a movement style and quality I like; it was only till I started teaching classes and workshops that I started to dig deeper into the why and how of what FoCo technique is.

The first task for me is how to transfer the movement quality from my body to the dancers I work with, and eventually, have it be present in the production. The teaching process is where the technique is formed. I break combinations down and verbally explain details. I believe there is still a lot of work to be done to make a system out of it, but I have been exploring and developing it.

How has your training in Chinese classical and folk dance informed FoCo technique?

FoCo Technique is rooted in classical dance training, in my case, Chinese classical dance, and cushioned in contemporary dance. The technique requires grounded legs, circular spinal movement, and a water-like quality. These are essential qualities in Chinese classical dance training. FoCo Technique also takes inspiration from Tibetan and Mongolian folk dance, which I studied while I was in Shanghai Dance School.

I love the elements and stages used in FoCo and connect with them on such a deep level. Have other dancers had the same experience?

Dancers who have taken workshops believe that the information about elements and stages are very helpful for them to grasp what the technique is and how to physically achieve the quality. It is a unique and symbolic way to help dancers to mentally understand the quality and stimulate imagination.

In the class you teach at Peridance, you create combinations in class. Not everyone works this way (but I really enjoy it!). Is this always your process? How did it come about? Do you ever “prepare” combinations? 

I don’t prepare phrase work beforehand; I almost always choreograph right at the spot. I enjoy a “let’s see where the inspiration leads us” approach, both in class as well as in rehearsal. I believe this gives me a sense of flow in spontaneous inspiration instead of a highly thought out choreographed combo. I always enjoy improvisation; I perform all my solo works as improvisation on stage, in competitions, and in informal showings. So I function better in teaching when I keep the same habit.

When did you begin YY Dance Company?

I started making work as an official company in 2012. That’s when I first had the desire to build, grow, and maintain a group.

In what ways do you take risks in the work you make?

Every new creation involves risk; either I decide to do something I have never done before, or something I do well. Of course, there is always the chance the piece doesn’t turn out the way I want it to. For me the risk is to create new movement, interesting patterns, and discover new relationships.

Do you choose all of the music / sound /lighting in your work? What connection does it have to FoCo?

I choose all of the music for my choreography. Occasionally I work with musicians to commission an original score for the work. I usually work with a lighting designer to set the lighting for the piece. My artistic vision is closely connected to my technique, so the mood, color, and overall style of music, lighting, costume, and other design aspects all demonstrate of my artistic voice.

What is your process when setting work on other companies besides YYDC?

The challenge of setting work on other companies is always to transfer my movement language to other dancers who have not worked with me before. Due to time and budget, I have to jump into a creation fairly quickly. I will spend about a day or two teaching and testing out creative ideas about movement and form for a project, then go from there.

It works the best when the company takes my classes to train in my technique on a daily base to familiarize themselves with my way of approaching movement. Then we start the creative process. I want to to continue to develop and nurture the skill of being able to know the dancers’ artistic voices quickly to be able to cast them in the work and trust their choices.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a 2017 company season at Peridance Theater for September 16 and 17, and the 23 and 24. The performance will include a world premiere, a solo work, and an excerpt of “Through the Fracture of Light.”

Headshots of Yin Yue by Steven Trumon Gray. Movement photos by Anton Martynov.

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